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I hope you had a great Ascension Day yesterday.
As I mentioned in episode 53, Ascension and Pentecost are two parts of a glorious occasion. Ascension was the beginning of the introduction of God’s spiritual Kingdom, and Pentecost was the magnificent finale of the introduction to God’s spiritual Kingdom.
Ascension was the opening bars of the prelude, and Pentecost brought the music to a close.
And today we’re going to talk about how you can celebrate God better on Pentecost.
But before I do that, I’d like to invite you to hang out with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
If you’d be interested in getting to know me and my thoughts a little better, we can hang out and discuss all things life and godliness on the socials. I look forward to interacting with you there.
Of course, if you’re not on social media, I strongly suggest you keep doing what you’re doing.
But if you happen to find yourself on the world wide web, check out CelebrationOfGod.com for free episode notes, transcripts, and Pentecost resources.
And with that we talk about a holiday that — for some people — can dredge up some baggage.
It was 2017 when I started down a path that I never would have imagined would end with me using the words “church hurt.”
I had poured myself into my family’s local body of believers, I had sacrificed and loved and engaged in a lot of very difficult conversations, but — in the end — we had to leave. It was no longer a functioning church. It had descended into a constant slough of backbiting and bickering and beating people over the head with the Bible.
I couldn’t stay there any longer because I didn’t believe the Lord would be glorified by it. Jesus Himself commanded us to not to cast our pearls before those who would only trample them and try to tear us apart, and that was what happened.
We probably should have left months earlier, but I hung on for as long as I could.
Now fast forward two churches later. I received an email from my new pastor who wanted to talk to me about an opportunity for service.
I knew what the meeting was about. I had asked for it. It was a great opportunity. But the thought of sitting alone in a room with two members of the pastoral staff sent my body into symptoms of PTSD.
Little did I know, my wife who was at home during the meeting — and who also knew what the meeting was all about — also was experiencing indescribable spasms of anxiety and discomfort.
Here we were in a very safe place, yet we were experiencing echos of the physical stress that had occurred over a year before and two churches ago.
Yeah, relational carnage caused by members of a church is definitely a thing.
Now, my response to the sins that were lobbed at me is my responsibility before God. Depression, anger, bitterness, offense, and the like are unacceptable responses as a Christian. I can’t excuse a wrong reaction on my part because I’ve been sinned against, and my wife and I were thankful for the the lessons this experience has been teaching us about ourselves.
But the reason I bring all of this up is that some of you — upon hearing that Pentecost is a celebration of God and His gift of the church — are super hesitant (at least), or downright turned off (at worst).
So, allow me to start with a very important observation.
We do not embrace God’s plan only when it aligns perfectly with our own.
I’d much rather care for an environment that isn’t so messy. But God wants His children to steward the earth even though it’s been cursed.
It would be a whole lot easier staying healthy if my body weren’t so fragile and broken, but God demands that I care for my health regardless.
Parenting would be so fun if my kids were sinless, but God demands I parent like Christ precisely because my kids and I are sinners.
So, just because the church doesn’t look the way we want or feel the way we want doesn’t mean that we get to ignore God’s gift and His accompanying expectations concerning the church.
So many people try to justify not assembling with believers because of the trauma they experienced with another set of believers. But I should never use my experiences to justify disobeying God.
By the way, I’ll mention this again later, but I’ve been working through a series called “Celebrating God at Church.” So far we’ve talked about the purpose of church and the motivation for attending church.
In a couple weeks we’re going to discuss the kind of church that glorifies God, and then in the future I want to talk about the consequences of celebrating God at church and the consequences of neglecting it.
The reason it takes so long to get to the next part is that I’m using it to fill-in between the holiday episodes. However, depending on when you’re listening to this, you may be able to find all 5 parts listed together at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Anyway, if you have any church-related question, I highly recommend you start with that series. In it I’m going through some of the most important biblical truths considering how we are to interact with the church.
Now, I know that was all kind of on the dark side. It was about church hurt and how some people don’t like going to church, but, now, let’s view it from the other side. Let’s consider God’s gift of the church.
When I introduced Pentecost a few episodes ago, I told you about the Jewish Feast of Pentecost which was a celebration of God making the people of Israel into the nation of Israel by giving them the Torah. And I mentioned that what God accomplished on Pentecost in AD 34 was a larger fulfillment of what He did for the Jews on Sinai.
Now, this is important, so stick with me.
In the Old Testament God showed His love for the Jews by miraculously delivering them from slavery in Egypt and making them a physical nation with Him as the King.
In the new Testament God showed His love for all mankind by miraculously delivering them from slavery to sin and making them a spiritual nation with Him as the King.
This is not only a great reason to celebrate the creativity and communication of God, this tells us — in part — the purpose of His gift, the church.
So, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit indwelt the disciples and inaugurated the New Testament church. But it’s not just about us getting together every Sunday to sing songs and hear preaching.
We need to look closer at the connection between the two events.
At Sinai, the gift God gave His people was the Law.
At Pentecost, the gift God gave His people was the Holy Spirit.
The Theology of Law is a huuuuuuuge discussion, but allow me to oversimplify it. In Galatians 3:24-26 we read, “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Everyone is a sinner, but we would never know we were sinners unless someone taught us. Why? Because we all believe we do the right things. However, when someone shows me how what I thought was right was actually wrong, I can now see that I’m a sinner.
And that’s what the Law did. It showed me my sin.
In a similar way, Jesus told us in John 6:8 that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit would be conviction. He would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.
And remember how Galatians told us that we’re no longer under a tutor because faith has come? Well, we can only have faith in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I hope you’re seeing the correlations.
Now, God gave the Law so that the Jews could be nation.
In a similar way, God gave the Spirit so His people could be a spiritual Kingdom that would one day be a physical Kingdom.
The church is the physical representation of the Spiritual Kingdom.
I also quoted R.C.Sproul when he said, “Jesus gave [them] the fundamental mission of the church. Men would be blind to His kingship, so His disciples were given the task of making it visible. The fundamental task of the church is to bear witness to the kingdom of God. Our King reigns now, so for us to put the kingdom of God entirely in the future is to miss one of the most significant points of the New Testament. Our King has come and has inaugurated the kingdom of God. The future aspect of the kingdom is its final consummation.”
God gave the Jews the Law so that they could become a nation, and God gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could become a Kingdom. And the physical representation of that Kingdom right here and right now is the church of God.
If you are a born again believer, you absolutely must be thankful for the Universal Church because it is the spiritual Kingdom of God on this earth. You cannot be part of the Kingdom of God and not be part of the church. They’re synonymous.
Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone who darkens the door of a church building is officially in the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t even matter if they were voted into membership.
To be a genuine member of the church is to be truly born again which is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the greatest blessing that comes from the gift of the church is the ability to be part of the Kingdom of God.
The second greatest blessing is that — unlike the Old Testament saints — our entrance into the Kingdom of God includes a personal indwelling by God Himself. And the benefits of that reality are infinite.
And I would say that the third greatest blessing of the church is how it works.
Allow me to clarify. Being a citizen of a kingdom isn’t — in itself — an inherent blessing. What if the kingdom stinks?
But if the kingdom is run well, you have a double blessing — First, living in that kingdom is enjoyable, and Second, you’re a full member of that glorious kingdom.
So, when I said that the third blessing is how the church works, what I meant is that the expectations for the life and function of the church is really cool.
God designed for the church to equip us for the work of the ministry and build us into the image of Christ.
We’ll talk on future episodes as to how the church is supposed to do that, and we’ll definitely be overviewing that in our “Celebrate God at Church” series, but I want to transition in a moment so we can talk about preparing for, celebrating, and discipling during Pentecost.
I suppose — in summation — I could say that Pentecost is an exciting holiday because it not only highlights God’s love, wisdom, provision, and kingship, it also gives us time to reevaluate our participation in the Body of Christ. Are we experiencing what God wants us to experience? Are we participating how God wants us to participate? These are very important questions which we shouldn’t take for granted.
Alright, so how exactly might one celebrate Pentecost? It’s not second nature to us like Christmas and Easter are.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
Regardless of how you feel about the church, I recommend you go to CelebrationOfGod.com, click on “Holidays” and select Pentecost. There you will find a bunch of resources including a Pentecost Bible Reading.
I recommend you do this because I believe many church-goers don’t really understand what the church is supposed to be and do.
A great way to prepare our minds to celebrate God for the gift of the church is to read about church from His Word.
Second, I believe of you need to pray. You need to start by asking God to use His Word to teach you what the church is supposed to be. Now, once you’ve learned what the church is supposed to be, if you discover that you’ve been looking at it the wrong way or been bitter against it or refused to interact with it, I recommend you ask God to forgive you for that.
In the same way it would be wrong for me to neglect and abuse my family, it’s wrong for us to neglect and abuse the Body of Christ. It’s just as much a gift of God designed for His glory and our good.
Of course, those of you who are already grateful for the church, I recommend you thank God personally for your local body of believers, but also the Universal Church.
You should also praise the Lord for setting up His spiritual Kingdom through His people called the church.
And then . . .
Pentecost always falls on a Sunday — which is perfect — because that means you get to celebrate the gift of the church at church.
I understand how immature children are sad when Christmas falls on a Sunday, but that response is selfish and foolish. If the holiday is about celebrating God, doing so within a corporate context with the rest of the body of Christ is one of the best places to do it!
If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to remind your people what the church is all about.
School teachers, you can have your students turn in an extra credit project the Friday before Pentecost and give them their Pentecost Project bonus grades on the Monday after.
Parents, you can do crafts with your kids, teach them what God has to say about the church, you can invite your neighbors to church, and you can always spend time reading the Scriptures and praying.
Now, if the whole church is going to celebrate Pentecost together, that Sunday would be an awesome day for a community outreach. Show your neighbors just how awesome God’s church really is, but make sure you do it biblically.
The church isn’t awesome because it provides a family-friendly, moral alternative to a club, party, or concert. The church is awesome when it’s fulfilling God’s expectations from His Word.
Again, check out the “Celebrating God at Church” series to learn more. You can find that series under the Pentecost page at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Part of your celebration can also include this Season’s focus on Life. The church was created by giving God’s people new life and it’s designed — in part — to enhance and grow that life.
Also, the salvation focus for this Season is Justification. What better way to celebrate justification than by introducing someone in your community to Christ through saving faith!
And lastly . . .
Please allow me to simplify the mission of the church by reading Ephesians 4:11-16, “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
And, as you should have seen from the passage, God accomplishes both of those tasks through the life-on-life discipleship of His people.
The pastors are equipping the congregation and the congregation is speaking the truth in love to each other so that the body fits itself together and holds itself together as each part grows up in love into Christ.
If we miss out on discipling on Pentecost, we really don’t get God’s calling on our lives.
Therefore, make sure to invest in at least one brother and/or sister in Christ for Pentecost. Start early by inviting them into your Preparation and definitely include them in your Celebration.
I really hope and pray that this year you approach and participate in Pentecost in a new way. I pray you grow in your understanding of God and His gift of the church. And I pray your local church is better this year because you’re in it.
Also, please tell people about The Celebration of God. It’s always more fun to celebrate with friends, so get all of your family and friends on board worshipping God and giving Him the glory that’s due Him.
You can do that by sharing this episode on your favorite social media outlets, or just telling everyone about it. People are always looking for good podcast recommendations.
And join us next time as we introduce The Season of Power.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.